Choosing a roof system is a big decision and there are a variety of roof types to choose from. Popular roofing options include asphalt shingle roofs, wood shingle roofs, clay roof tiles, slate roofs, concrete tile roofs, rubber shingle roofs, and metal roofs made of steel, aluminum, copper, and tin. In recent years solar roofing and green roofing have gained popularity, appealing highly to consumers looking for earth-friendly roofs and roof systems. Commercial single-ply roofing is a reliable and affordable option for low-slope commercial buildings.
Building location and style play a key factor in determining viable roofing options, however personal preference also plays a part in selecting a new roof. Roofing contractors and roofing installation professionals are a wonderful resource for region and style specific roofing trends and roof options. A roofing contractor will assist you in making an informed decision based on cost, durability, aesthetics and architectural style. This page provides an overview of factors to consider when investigating types of roofing materials, new roofs, and roof replacement systems.
Consumers have two basic options when it comes to re-roofing. One choice involves tearing-off the existing roof system and replacing it with an entirely new roof. The other option is to re-cover the existing roof system with a new one. Slate roofs, tile roofs, and most wood roofs are too heavy to be applied in layers, therefore a tear-off will be necessary. Thin wood shingles as well as asphalt shingles are lightweight enough that they can often be applied directly over existing roof materials, however most building codes allow for no more than one roof system re-cover. If your roof has ever been re-covered in the past, a complete roof replacement will likely be mandated. Roof tear-off does increase the cost of roof replacement, but it usually amounts to money well spent. Your roofing contractor may recommend tearing-off the existing roof to allow a full inspection of underlying roof structures and because in many cases the new roof warranty will require the old roof to be stripped away.
Sun, rain, wind, snow and ice can all impact the structural and functional integrity of a roof system. Over time the heat and ultraviolet rays from the sun cause a gradual deterioration of roofing materials. This usually occurs more quickly on the sides of the roof with southern and western exposure. Rain water may seep underneath the shingles, shakes or other roofing materials and cause the roof structure to become moldy or rotten. Wind damage is usually seen in the form of lifting shingles, which compromise the roof structure by leaving it vulnerable to water and debris in the air. Finally, snow can contribute to roof damage through a process known as ice damming. This occurs when snow melts and then refreezes along the cooler surface of the roof’s overhang. It results in blocked drainage, potential water back-ups, and varying degrees of gutter and downspout damage.
Other sources of roof damage include condensation accumulating due to improper ventilation, moss and algae growth which lead to rot and deterioration of wood roofs, and trees and leaves scratching and damaging roof materials. Leaves and brush left to sit on a roof are also a source of moisture and can contribute to rotting and other drainage problems.
Home and building owners should periodically check roof condition. This can be done safely and easily from the ground by using a pair of binoculars. Damage and deterioration increase and spread over time; prompt attention to potential roof problems by qualified roofing professionals is necessary.
If your roof is leaking or if you notice deteriorating, curling, missing or torn shingles, or broken, cracked tiles, contact a local roofing contractor to assist you in determining the best course of action to take. In certain cases loose or deteriorating flashing may be responsible for what homeowners see as a leaky roof. It may be possible for a professional roofing contractor to repair your existing roof, however in cases of a complete roof system failure a new roof installation is likely the only way to ensure the safety and integrity of the roof and building.
When deciding on a new roof it is important to consider the five main components of a roof system: roof structure, sheathing, roof covering, flashing, and drainage. The roof structure consists of rafters and trusses constructed to support the uppermost layer of the home or building, the roof. The sheathing are the boards or sheet materials which connect to the rafters and make up the covering of the structure. The roof covering provides weather protection to the sheathing and adds aesthetic and architectural appeal. When building a roof system, sheet metal or other material, collectively known as flashing, are installed at various points to prevent water seepage. The final component of a roof system is drainage, which refers to features such as slope, shape, and layout designed to allow the roof to shed water.
Consumers should select a roof system that will meet the structural needs of the building to be roofed, as well as their budgetary and stylistic needs. Consideration must be paid to factors that affect the performance of the roof system. Certain types of roofing are better equipped to withstand various types of weather, for example, and paying attention to these factors before selecting a roof type can help consumers make the best investment for their specific roofing needs.
Considering the vast array of roofing material options, consumers may wish to narrow down their selection based first on style and color. They can then use these factors as a guideline and select a roofing material that fits all technical and budgetary requirements. Consumers who like the look of Spanish-mission tile roofs and slate roofs can find budget friendly options in concrete and cement tiles designed to look like the authentic roofing materials. Asphalt shingles can be made to mimic the crisp look of slate tile roofs or the appealing shadowy presence of split-wood shakes for pennies on the dollar. Determining the desired style of your new roof can help your roofing contractor direct you to roofing materials which meet the technical and environmental requirements of your roof at a variety of price points.
Roof color is an important decision that actually impacts your home’s energy efficiency. Dark colored roofs absorb more heat and are an asset to houses in colder climates. Conversely light colored roofs have a tendency to reflect sunlight which helps houses in warmer climates combat heat buildup. Roof color also effects “curb appeal” and can be a useful tool in improving the appearance of your home. Lighter colors on a roof lend a contemporary look and help ranch style homes appear taller and airier, whereas an unusually tall or overly steep building may be made to look more approachable and less imposing with the installation of a dark colored roof. The siding, trim, and overall style of the building should also be considered when selecting a roof color.
Technical roofing requirements to be considered during roof selection include level of fire-resistance and material weight. Fire ratings are determined by independent testing agencies and are listed in product literature. As a general rule, roofing materials must have a least a Class C fire rating, which indicates that the material will not ignite in the presence of burning embers or a small fire. The best rating, a Class A rating, means the roofing material won’t contribute to fire spread over the roof and will not ignite even in the presence of a large fire. Materials such as slate and metal, which are non-combustible, have an A rating. Asphalt shingles vary in their rating, some have an A rating while others only have a C rating. Your roofing contractor can advise you on local code requirements. It is also wise to review your homeowners policy in regards to required fire ratings for roofing materials.
As product weight varies greatly across roof types it is necessary to consider the weight of your desired roofing materials as well as the load-bearing ability of your existing roof structure. Individuals considering heavier weight roofing, for example slate, should consult a roofing contractor in order to guarantee that the roof structure will be able to support the weight of the roof. In certain cases, the roof structure may require modifications and reinforcements before roof installation can proceed.
Your roof’s pitch will also play a determining factor in potential roof materials. Flat roofs have more limited options, while structures with low-pitch roofs, medium-pitch roofs, and even steep roofs have little restriction in terms of possible roofing materials.
Low-pitch roofs, medium-pitch roofs, and steep roof systems are usually made up of individual pieces installed in a shingle fashion. The roof assembly consists of a roof deck, an underlayment and a roof covering. The roof deck is an underlying structural layer usually made of plywood or oriented strand board (osb.) The underlayment, sometimes referred to as “paper” or “felt,” provides secondary waterproofing and weatherproofing for the roof. The roof covering is the outermost layer and is a water-shedding material. Roof assembly requirements vary depending on the type of roof system being installed. A qualified roofing contractor can provide specific details about roof system and roof assembly requirements.
To get a real-life idea of how a particular roofing material will look on your own house it makes sense to visit a building that is roofed with that specific product. In addition, consumers should carefully study roofing manufacturer’s brochures and examine full-sized samples of potential roofing products.
Below is a brief description of available roof types. Roofing material and roof installation costs vary by area. All prices mentioned are approximate averages. For current roofing material and roof installation costs contact a local roofing contractor.
Asphalt: The most commonly used roofing material is asphalt shingles. In fact, upwards of 80% of homeowners select asphalt shingles as their roofing material of choice. Asphalt shingle roofs are easy to maintain, durable, inexpensive, and are available in an incredible array of colors and styles. Asphalt shingle replacement roofs can give the appearance of more expensive roofing options, such as slate roofs and tile roofs, at a budget-friendly price. Prices range based on specific type and grade selected but basic asphalt shingle roofs can be installed for under $100 per square, or less than $10 per square foot. For more information about asphalt shingle roofs click here.
Wood: Commonly found throughout the Northwestern United States, wood shingles and wood shakes lend a unique, natural, and sometimes rustic look to their supporting structures. They age and weather nicely and have a tendency to blend naturally into the surrounding landscape. Wood roof systems can be made from a variety of woods including Western Red Cedar, Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Eastern White Cedar, and Southern Pine. This roofing material typically installs for around $250 per square, which covers a 10’x10′ foot section of roof. For more information about wood roofs click here.
Tile: Tile roof systems are available in two distinctly different materials, clay and concrete. Both types of tile roofs are durable, attractive, and available in a wide range of styles, colors, profiles and finishes. Clay is a more expensive option, with costs usually around $500 per installed square. To learn more about clay tile roofs click here. Concrete tile roof systems can usually be installed beginning at $100 per square, or 10’x10′ area of roof. Click here to learn more details about concrete tile roof systems.
Slate: This natural roofing material, historically used in the Northeastern United States, has become more widespread throughout the country. The classic, natural look of a slate roof provides a lovely aesthetic appeal and the use of natural, non-synthetic roofing materials has gained popularity as ecological concerns have reached a summit. Properly installed slate roofs are nearly indestructible; it is not uncommon for the slate roofing to outlast underlying roof structures. This high-end roofing material typically installs for around $850 per square, which represents a 10’x10′ section. Although they may be cost prohibitive to some consumers working within a budget, considering the century long useful lifespan, slate roofs are a wise investment for some buyers. It should be noted that the installation of a slate roof is considered a specialty and requires specific tools, skills and experience. Exercise care when selecting a roofing contractor. More information on slate roof systems is available here.
Metal: Metal roofs were once used only for low-slope roofs but have been adapted for successful use with steep-slope roofs in recent years. Metal roofing is available in the form of metal roof shingles and metal panels. Prized for their long lifespan, metal roofs can be used to simulate the look of other roof systems including wood shakes, wood shingles, and even tile roofs. These roof systems are available in an array of attractive, durable and earth-friendly styles. The cost of installation varies widely depending on roof style and the specific metal roof system selected. Learn more about metal roof systems here.
Rubber: Rubber shingle roof systems are considered a synthetic roof system and have only been available since 1993. They appeal to consumers looking for a roof system made of recycled materials. This type of roofing can be manufactured to approximate the look of asphalt shingles, concrete tiles, clay tiles, metal panels, slate, wood shakes and wood shingles at a fraction of the cost and weight. A rubber shingle roof system typically costs around $200 per square installed, which covers a 10’x10′ area of roof. For more information about rubber shingle roofs click here.
Commercial Single-Ply: Commercial single-ply roofing has become popular for low-slope commercial buildings over the past thirty years. It is a strong, long-lasting roof system available in a variety of colors, styles and prices. Consulting with a roofing contractor is the best way to learn about the vast array of commercial single-ply roofing materials available for your new commercial roof. For more general information about this type of low-slope roofing click here.
Solar Shingles: Solar shingle roofing involves the installation of photovoltaic roof shingles designed and installed to create solar power. Solar roof shingles are different from solar roof panels, although in many cases they function in the same way. Solar roof shingles look very similar to “regular” shingles and are gaining popularity among consumers looking to take advantage of tax incentives and establish “greener” homes. To read more about solar roof shingles click here.
Green Roofs: Green roofing is defined as a roof system covered completely or partially with vegetation. Green roofs are also commonly referred to as living roofs. These unique rooftops absorb rainwater, provide insulation against heat, cold and noise, help lower urban air temperature and even provide a habitat for area wildlife. Green roofs can contribute to LEED points when properly installed. Click here to learn more about green roofing.
Learning about the wide variety of roof systems available, as well as considering logistical issues of your home are keys to selecting the right roof system. A qualified roofing contractor can help you with this important investment